University of Wisconsin Faculty and Residents Have Life-Changing Experiences in the Philippines 

For over 50 years, the University of Wisconsin Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences (DOVS) has been a leader in the mission to improve vision-related quality of life for people locally and abroad. As part of this mission, faculty and learners travelled to the Philippines this past May.  

Department Chair Terri Young, MD, MBA, Assistant Professor Jennifer Larson, MD, and Chief Resident Breanna Aldred, MD participated in a one-week rotation, hosted by the department’s global partners at Tzu Chi Eye Center, the University of Santo Tomas (UST), and Cardinal Santos Medical Center (CSMC) in Manila, Philippines. The rotation provided participants the opportunity to exchange ideas and surgical techniques. In addition, residents and faculty engaged in community outreach and discussions about global health care issues and solutions. 

During the rotation, the group conducted home visits and participated in an interdisciplinary outreach clinic for free screening eye exams. Dr. Young also presented the Dr Luis Maria Alvarez Guerrero Memorial lecture “New Developments and Paradigms in Childhood Glaucoma.” Dr. Larson conducted an Open Globe Course at UST, and Dr. Aldred engaged in clinical and surgical education at Tzu Chi Eye Center. 

“I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to go to the Philippines on a Global Ophthalmology rotation,” said Dr. Larson. “I most enjoyed going on an outreach medical mission in the city of Bacoor and screening and examining over 200 patients. We saw many advanced blinding cataracts that patients will have removed at the Tzu Chi Eye Center where we able to operate during our time in the Philippines. I also enjoyed going on two home visits with the staff at Tzu Chi and seeing the truly wonderful holistic care they provide their patients. During the home visits we helped coordinate scheduling for eye surgery for patients blinded by advanced eye disease, and we brought much needed food, cooking supplies, clothing, shoes, and more. Everyone in the Philippines was so kind and generous, and I will never forget their friendship.” 

woman in blue scrubs examines someone's eyes in a gynasium

a woman points to a diagram as the people around her laugh

 “The global ophthalmology rotation in Manila was truly eye-opening,” added Dr. Aldred. “We had the opportunity to travel to a few patients’ homes to discuss their vision symptoms and coordinate charity surgery for them. One patient was a single mother who was blind from bilateral cataracts and was living in a car with her two young children. We were able to hear her story about how she is struggling to raise her children due to her blindness. She was so grateful when we were able to schedule her for cataract surgery which should substantially improve her quality of life. Being able to connect with patients like her and offer them hope is such a privilege, and I will forever appreciate the individuals I met and experiences I had during this rotation.”    

a woman in blue scrubs looks at a woman's eyes

a woman laughs with two children, as a second woman looks on and laughs

 The partnership between the University of Wisconsin and its three Filipino partners is organized by DOVS’ Global Ophthalmology Initiatives and made possible through the support of the Guillermo and Marta de Venecia Fund. These exchange programs are a continuation of the indelible work of the late, Dr. Guillermo de Venecia, whose work contributions to serving the indigent patients of the Philippines.  

 “I want to express my sincere thanks to Drs. Catherine Macaraig from the University of Santo Tomas, Edith Navarro of Tzu Chi Eye Center, and Antonio Say from Cardinal Santos Medical Center for their contributions to our partnership and their efforts I making this rotation a reality,” said Dr. Young. “It is only through strong partnerships like this that we can hope to reach our goal of eradicating vision-related disease worldwide.”  

Dr. Macaraig is a 1994 graduate of the Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus Fellowship program. Dr. Navarro is a 1995 graduate of the Cornea, External Disease & Refractive Surgery Fellowship program.  

three doctors performing surgery

two women in blue scrubs stand underneath a historic arch

women smile as they perform exams in a gynasium